Jonny Bairstow insists he has the hunger to win back his Test place with England and will not be satisfied just playing limited-overs cricket in the condensed upcoming summer for the national team.
After playing a starring role in England’s Cricket World Cup triumph last year, the wicketkeeper-batsman had an underwhelming Ashes series when he averaged 23.77 and made just one half-century in 10 innings. He has featured in just one Test since.
Bairstow was dropped for the New Zealand tour before playing one of the four Tests in the series against South Africa across December and January — and only then after a rejig of the team as a result of a flu bug that affected the squad. He then opted out of going on the Sri Lanka tour that was abandoned in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.
With the international summer shortened because of the pandemic, England is set to pigeon-hole players for Test and limited-overs duty owing to the need to play different formats around the same time in August and September. Players also might not be allowed to switch from one squad to another to limit potential spreading of the virus.
The 30-year-old Bairstow said he was “not ruling anything out” regarding which format to focus on, and is concentrating firstly on regaining his Test place for the three-match series against the West Indies in July.
“I want to keep my options very much open,” Bairstow said on a video call on Tuesday. “I’m someone who has always been positive about playing. There have always been challenges that have been asked, whether that’s been keeping wicket or batting in certain position and circumstances, and I’d like to think I’ve risen to those challenges.
“Red-ball cricket has been something that has been a massive part of my career. There is no reason why (concentrating on the limited-overs formats) should be the case at this moment in time.”
Bairstow said he was “disappointed” to lose his wicketkeeping spot in the Test team to Jos Buttler, saying the “stats of my keeping were very good.” He did, though, score only two fifties in 19 Test innings in 2019.
“I didn’t feel like I had done anything wrong with my keeping and I was getting complimented highly by people on that,” Bairstow said. “It was part and parcel of things that happened but when you think about getting back in, you can only be judged on your last performances and I like to think they were good and I hope they will get me back in the side as long as I score enough runs.”
Bairstow was one of 55 players asked to return to England training this month after the shutdown of sports because of the pandemic. Such is the limited nature of the practices, because of social distancing, that he has yet to face a bowler with the red ball yet.
That should come on Wednesday when he travels to Durham for a session with pace bowlers Mark Wood and Ben Stokes. There are only three weeks left until the first Test against the West Indies in Southampton but Bairstow rejected the suggestion England players will be rusty.
“We’ve got a camp that we’re going to be playing each other down at Southampton for two weeks so I’d like to think the intensity that the guys are going to be bringing to that camp will be as high as you’d like to think Test cricket’s going to be,” he said.
“We’ve got some guys that can bowl at serious pace, we’ve got guys that are wanting to be proving themselves, so I don’t think the intensity side of things is going to be a problem.”
After the West Indies series, Pakistan is due to tour for a Test series, while England is also scheduled to play Pakistan, Australia and Ireland in limited-overs matches.
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